An Eye for an Eye?

Parkland School shooter Nikolas Cruz will spend the rest of his life in prison for killing 17 people in 2018. Under Florida law, he could have been given the death penalty but that requires a unanimous decision by the jury – and one juror refused to vote for death.

Given the horrendous nature of the shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, the decision to allow Cruz to remain alive has been widely criticized. The comments usually suggest that the guy deserves to die and, frankly, if anyone ever rated the death penalty, it is Cruz.

I doubt that. And frankly, I’m very much a conservative law-and-order kind of guy.

There are many people who deserved the death penalty as much as Cruz. Richard Speck and Charles Manson come to mind. The guy who shot Saint John Paul II got parole. The guy who shot President Reagan got parole.

We have people serving in Congress who have sanctioned the murder of millions of unborn babies, stolen billions from the taxpayers, and entangled us in unproductive wars. By those standards, there are lots of people as deserving of death as Cruz, which isn’t to diminish the pain and suffering he caused.

I favor putting him in a jail cell and throwing away the key. My reason goes to a fundamental purpose of the Catholic faith: getting souls to heaven.

If you think Cruz already is destined for Hell, I recommend viewing one of my favorite movies, The Scarlet and the Black. Yes, it is a movie, but it is a true story of faith and salvation.

There are two key players in the film, both of whom were real people.

Colonel Herbert Kappler (played by Cristopher Plummer) headed the German occupation forces in Rome in 1943. He was by all standards, an evil man. He ordered the deaths of thousands and hunted Jews to send them to concentration camps.

Monsignor Hugh O’Flaherty (played by Gregory Peck) was the colonel’s nemesis, taking refuge in the Vatican but sneaking out in various disguises to organize a massive network to harbor Jews and smuggle them to the safety of allied territory.

The movie is an exciting game of cat and mouse. And since we all know how the war ended, I’m not being a spoiler when I tell you that the colonel ends up in prison for life and the Monsignor was honored as a hero. He was a Catholic hero because in addition to saving thousands of lives during the war he saved a soul after the war that might surprise you.

Kappler had only one visitor during his time in prison: Monsignor O’Flaherty, who visited him once a month to offer spiritual counsel and, perhaps, even friendship. In 1959, he baptized Kappler and welcomed him into the Catholic faith.

Many people look at mass murderer Cruz and demand an eye for an eye. I’m sure there were many in Rome who felt the same way about Kappler.

But that isn’t the Catholic way. Our way is the path to eternal life – even for those we might deem least deserving.


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